European Moral Psychology Research Group

Links and Functions

Breadcrumb Navigation


Talk by Richard Holton (University of Cambridge)


Time: 4pm until 6pm

Location: Room 021, Ludwigstraße 31 

Preference, Pleasure, Pollution: Some Lessons From Addiction

This paper draws some moral and political lessons from the influential account of addiction that has been proposed by Robinson and Berridge, and that I have presented in earlier joint work with Berridge. It argues that the account makes good sense of the intuitively appealing idea that addicts have diminished responsibility for their addictive actions. More broadly, it undermines the idea, central to preference utilitarianism, that the satisfaction of desires is in itself morally significant; and it undermines the idea, central to hedonistic utilitarianism, that the provision of pleasure is uniquely valuable. Finally, it motivates the idea that an environment of addictive cues constitutes a form of pollution, and so should be tackled in the same way that we tackle things like air pollution: with the responsibility moved, in a public law fashion, onto those who cause it. And, given the similarities between the motivation involved in the consumption of addictive drugs, and that involved in the consumption of sugar, it provides a justification for various nudge style policies that might otherwise seem unwarrantedly intrusive.